Papers relating to the Community Plays Archive and Database Project

Scope and Content

The quantity of material varies, according to what had been preserved or was available to the collecting team, but may include scripts, photographs, designs, administrative documents, circulars, programmes and flyers. A list of all the productions was produced, and the detailed contents inventories for each production are collated into three folders.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Community Plays Archive & Database Project received funding from the National Lottery to collect data and materials relating to community plays. The project was led by academic, Margaret Sheehy, whose MA studies had identified a lack of documentation for this area of the performing arts. The sporadic nature of community plays, which are often staged in unusual venues results in these generally not being monitored by theatre listings and ticket organisations. The community plays movement had largely operated since the 1970s and was characterised by its use of a professional playwright, director and perhaps other key personnel working for and with local communities. The plays tend to be based on local events, often relating to political or social upheaval in the area’s past. Community plays seek to involve as many people as possible, and to help develop new skills and a sense of collaboration. The outcomes of the project were a database of past productions as well as files of material on each of the productions identified. The database ceased to function after a short period but the V&A inherited the collected materials from various owners at the end of the project. Almost 200 UK community play productions were traced in the course of the study and documented within the collection.


The collection is arranged alphabetically usually by the name of the town where the play was produced, and then by date if more than one production there was traced. Some plays may have been arranged alphabetically by their title.

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Community Plays Database Project.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed item level list is available for this collection. The hardcopy list can be found in THM/41/202. Detailed item lists may not be available in THM/41/202 for files added to the project in later stages, but such lists are available within each individual file.

Archivist's Note

Floppy discs, VHS and cassette tapes are catalogued as part of individual files. However, they are physically stored separately.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Custodial History

Records received from individuals and organisations involved in the community plays.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to Community Plays and involved practitioners may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Other related collections held by the V&A are:

Please ask for details.

Location of Originals

During the Community Plays Database Project a number of items were lent to the project for digitisation and then returned to their various owners. However, the project database is no longer available and the V&A did not receive digital or hard copies of all of these items. Individual item lists within folders might list these items as available, as they were seen by the project officers at the time, but they may not all be part of the collection.